‘Die Trying’ – Star Trek: Discovery Season Three, Episode Five. Reviewed by Philip Bates.
Sometimes, you need the benefit of hindsight. Especially with TV shows: seeing the wider arc can soothe the things that troubled you in the early days. Or exacerbate them.
Right now, I have concerns about Star Trek: Discovery, but they’re being overshadowed by all the good stuff the show is doing. My main concern is that Discovery was in a unique position in that, without the Federation, this future the crew (and thereby the audience) found itself in felt particularly dangerous and isolated. There’s an edge to a narrative when you can add the phrase “there’s no back-up.” Until now, there’s been no back-up. The Discovery had each other, but that was essentially it. But with ‘Die Trying,’ we get a confirmation that the Federation still exists, albeit far from thriving.
Is that a good thing? Separate from fan wisdom, even from Gene Roddenberry’s original vision of unity, plots are generally more interesting when there’s no safety net. Discovery shows us that, though massively depleted, there is a safety net.
Things could turn around. There are hints of this, notably at the Federation’s insistence that Discovery is at the beck and call of Starfleet, and so isn’t held in the reverence that an anachronistic ship that can travel through space instantaneously should command. The main crux of ‘Die Trying’ is as a result of this: Michael, Hugh, and Nhan venture out to try to stop an infection, a task Admiral Vance is reluctant to acquiesce to but which Saru – more tactful than his Number One, Burnham – convinces him of. This is their chance to prove themselves.
It comes at great cost. The ideas at the core of this episode are brilliant, echoing some used in other sci-fi franchises including Doctor Who, but tackled in a sensitive and thought-provoking way. It also looks stunning.
Back at the Federation, the crew are quizzed about all aspects of their lives, leading to an energetic, funny, and mesmerising sequence. Reno and Tilly are particularly effervescent in ‘Die Trying,’ with the latter’s talkativeness and openness resulting in her admission that, “All this is after I got my hair blown out and became a Terran captain-slash-dominatrix.”
Then we get to Philippa Georgiou, who manages to disable the AI interrogators and instead talks to the steely Kovich, played by iconic director, David Cronenberg (The Fly.) Their tête-à-tête is nicely handled, giving more of an edge to Georgiou – finally giving Michelle Yeoh something deeper and more interesting to play.
There’s a lot of interest in ‘Die Trying,’ anyway. What caused The Burn? What’s with that music? Are they related? What happened to the Terran universe? Is that what’s playing on Georgiou’s mind? Will Starfleet expand again? When will the inevitable friction between the Federation and Discovery come to a head? Of the Discovery cast that have been left behind, who will we see again? Questions, questions, questions. It makes for a very engaging drama.
Yes, I’m uneasy about reintroducing the Federation too early. But ‘Die Trying’ does so much right, you can’t help get caught up in the ingenuity and enjoyability of it all.
One final thing to note here that might’ve been overshadowed by the appearance of the USS Voyager (actually the NCC-74656-J, the 11th ship to be called Voyager): we also got a glimpse of the NCC-325070, named the USS Nog, a heart-warming tribute to Aron Eisenberg, who died last year at the age of just 50, and who is best-known for playing Nog in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Star Trek Discovery Starfleet Academy hat– available now from Lovarzi!